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Super Ox Wars

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The dog's bullocks

Product: Super Ox Wars | Developer: Llamasoft | Publisher: Llamasoft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Arcade, Retro | Players: 1 | File size: 4.6MB | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Super Ox Wars iPhone, thumbnail 1
Industry veteran and Yak-lover Jeff Minter isn't a man who plays by the rules - you need only look at the eclectic output of his Llamasoft label to see evidence of that.

However, if there's one thing that Minter likes almost as much as producing psychedelic interactive light shows it's old skool shooters - as Super Ox Wars vividly illustrates.

This vertically scrolling blaster takes inspiration from the likes of Star Force and Star Soldier, crusty old shooters from yesteryear which still receive acclaim today.

In Minter's time-honoured style, the concept of blowing things up with lasers has been given a zany lick of paint. In addition to raining death down on your foes, you also have to collect coloured tokens in order to decide which of the titular oxen you support: Caprichoso or Garantido.

A load of bull

While this may sound like the work of a slightly unhinged mind, Minter himself can't be held totally responsible for the plot - the game is actually based on an real festival that takes place in the Brazilian town of Parintins, where the two aforementioned beasts feature quite prominently.

In a twist of genius, the game changes subtly depending on which ox you pledge your allegiance to. For example, if you choose the red (Garantido) oxen, then your bullets are blessed with the ability to push away incoming projectiles. Pick the blue (Caprichoso) beast, and you'll find that it's your ship itself - rather than its weaponry - that gains repulsive powers.

Ox in a box

Of course, you can ignore all of this colour polarity nonsense and just play Super Ox Wars as a straightforward blaster. Traditional rules apply: your ship follows your finger on the screen, but there's also support for the popular iCade peripheral if you're a purist who craves the traditional feel.

The opening levels gently ease you in, but later stages come close to bullet-hell territory, with swathes of deadly projectiles to wind your way through. It's hardly the deepest gameplay ever, but it's so enjoyable and instantly rewarding you're not likely to grumble.

Bovine beauty

Super Ox Wars is yet another stellar piece of software from a man whose achievements in video gaming are both impressive and depressingly underrated. While the off-beat visuals may be a barrier to entry for some people, the underlying gameplay is unapologetically gratifying.

Shooter addicts will appreciate the fan service (some enemy ships are actually taken from famous blasters such as Xevious, Raiden, 1942, and Galaga) and the old skool gameplay, while newcomers will find the action a surefire solution to long train journeys and boring waiting rooms.

Minter has done it again, and long may his zaniness continue.
Super Ox Wars
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 18 July 2012
Jeff Minter updates one of his favourite shooters and the result is a feast for both the eyes and the fingers. Regardless of whether or not you have an appreciation for vintage shooters, you should give this wacky wonder a spin as soon as it's convenient
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